I remember coming home from high school one snowy day in January 1987 because of an early dismissal. When I got home, I flipped on the TV and there was a press conference going on being led by R. Budd Dwyer who was the Treasurer of Pennsylvania. Dwyer was convicted of taking bribes (show me a politician who doesn’t) and maintained his innocence right up to the day before he was scheduled to be sentenced to prison. He called the presser to “provide an update on the situation.”
The update turned out to be a public suicide as Dwyer took the podium, took out a gun and, well…. you can watch the video for the rest (WARNING: Contains graphic content). I happened to be watching WNEP-TV at the time and they quickly pulled the plug right before Budd pulled the trigger. Many stations covering the event weren’t so quick at the switch and let the event air uncut. The video now is widely circulated on the Internet much to the chagrin of his family. Why would someone want to watch someone kill themselves?
It’s an interesting question. What leads us to slow down at the scene of an accident to see the injured? Why are horror movies full of blood and gore suddenly box office hits? I thought about all this today when I saw the photo below in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader newspaper. A 20-year old Brooklyn, NY man was fatally stabbed at a nightclub and what kind of picture is taken? One of the parking lot covered in the man’s blood.
I don’t understand why photos like this have to be used when covering the news. Does it sell more papers? No. Perhaps it sends a subliminal message to hoodlums like “say no to drugs or this will be you.” Or perhaps it’s because this is what we want to see. It may just explain the popularity of the R. Budd Dwyer video 22 years later.